Federer, 34, can snap stranglehold of 20-somethings


NEW YORK • The US Open has long been a tournament for the 20-somethings but an in-form Roger Federer is looking to break that trend at the year's final grand slam.

In the last three-plus decades, only Pete Sampras (2002) and Jimmy Connors (1983) won the men's title at Flushing Meadows in their 30s.

Both were 31.

Now, here comes 34-year-old Federer, fresh off an impressive win on the hard courts in Cincinnati, where he did not drop a set.

Even though he is seven years removed from his last Flushing Meadows triumph, he has been buoyed from an equipment change and his work with two-time US Open champion Stefan Edberg.

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    The world No. 1 can put an emphatic stamp on a dominant season by winning his third Major of the year. The Serb is a five-time finalist at the US Open though he only has one win to show for it. He has finished runner-up in his two tune-up events, but will be the man to beat at the top of the draw.


    The 17-time Grand Slam champion has not won a Major since 2012 but recent form suggests that could change. Following a loss to Djokovic in the Wimbledon final, Federer earned revenge by defeating the world No. 1 in the Cincinnati final last week. A five-time US Open champion, do not count him out.


    The 20-year-old Australian bad boy of tennis drew a suspended 28-day ban and fine for comments directed towards Stan Wawrinka in mid-match. His lone match since then was a timid loss to Richard Gasquet in Cincinnati. His behaviour and performance will be closely scrutinised at the US Open.


"I would like to give Stefan a lot of credit and he has helped me in a big way," said Federer who won five straight US Open titles between 2004 and 2008.

"But I think the backhand is better since I also have a bigger racket head. I really think that was the change because it happened at the same time."

The 17-time grand slam champion moved into second spot in the world rankings with his win over Novak Djokovic in the Cincinnati final. It means he will not face the Serbian world No. 1 unless the rivals reach the Sept 13 final.

"Number two, three doesn't really matter," the Swiss maestro, who faces Argentina's Leonardo Mayer in the first round on Tuesday, said.

"To be quite honest, I don't think that far ahead because I haven't been in a final since 2009 (when he lost to Argentine Juan Martin del Potro). So I've got my work cut out."

But he is confident and fresh, after skipping the Rogers Cup in Canada this month for the first time.

His new, highly aggressive return approach has also kept points - and matches - short.

The question is whether he can repeat his Cincinnati form in New York where the courts are slower, the conditions windier and the balls heavier.

Last year, Croatian Marin Cilic ousted Federer en route to claiming his first grand slam title with a straight sets win over Japan's Kei Nishikori. As the ninth seed, Cilic is on Djokovic's side of the draw and begins his title defence against Argentina's Guido Pella tomorrow.

Djokovic, Federer and Andy Murray arrive as the favourites.

Murray won in Montreal. Both Federer and Murray beat Djokovic for their Masters Series wins in August.

Murray has the most difficult US Open draw of the three because he will meet unseeded Australian Nick Kyrgios in the first round and possibly French Open champion Stan Wawrinka in the quarter-finals.

As the eighth seed, two-time champion Rafael Nadal has a potential clash with Djokovic in the quarter-finals. The Spaniard must first overcome Croatia's Borna Coric in his first-round match tomorrow.

Djokovic will open against Brazil's Joao Souza.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 30, 2015, with the headline 'Federer, 34, can snap stranglehold of 20-somethings'. Print Edition | Subscribe